Of Mice And Men, To A Mouse: Connection Or Coincidence?
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“The best laid schemes of mice and men, Go oft astray”. This quote is taken from the 1785 poem “To A Mouse.” The poem depicts the fleeing of a mouse in terror as a plow, driven by Robert Burns, the author, destroys its nest. Through the mouse’s tribulations Burns proceeds to console the mouse, telling it not to worry because plans often go wrong. George Steinbeck, a 20th century author, took this line to heart when he wrote the novel Of Mice and Men. The story depicts two ranch hands trying to get a stake to purchase their own ranch. Although they had a well-laid scheme, like the mouse in the poem, Curley’s wife’s and George and Lennie’s plans go astray.
Curley’s wife, ambitious, beautiful, and talented, was a natural for show business. Once, a man she met at the Riverside Dance Palace remarked that he thought she might be prosperous in show business. He also promised her he would send her a letter regarding her future in Hollywood. Although she waited for the letter, it never came. Curley’s wife believed that her mother stole the letter as it came in the mail. This could very well be where her plan went astray, although never confirmed. Even though she had planned to live a prosperous life in Hollywood, her mother kept her at home and pressured her into marrying Curley. A few weeks after the two were wed, she was ready to leave him. While confessing to Lennie in the barn, Lennie, in an attempt to keep her from screaming, broke her neck. This ultimately foiled her plan to head west. This unusual circumstance, like the destruction of the mouse’s nest, was the end of Curley’s wife’s life, and the end of her scheme.
George and Lennie, the first two characters introduced into the novel Of Mice and Men, had an intricate plan. They believed they could work on a ranch, make enough money together to buy some land with a farmhouse on it, and “live off the fatta the lan’.” Although George and Lennie were in a comfortable, confident state of mind about their plan, it happens to go astray. This is directly related to the mouse in “To A Mouse” that had planned to live in its nest for the winter, warm and satisfied, until Burns hit the nest with his plough. Unfortunately, their scheme is compromised when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife. After Curley finds out about this, he sends a posse out to hunt and kill Lennie. When George realizes he has no interest or faith left in the dream, he shoots Lennie to save his dignity. Due to these unfortunate happenings, their plan could no longer become a reality.
The plans of Curley’s wife and George and Lennie both went wrong, as did the mouse’s plan in the poem. Each characters had carefully laid plans, only to have them demolished by bad luck and circumstance. From these comparisons, it is clear to see why Steinbeck chose the title he did for his novel. Of Mice and Men paralleled “To A Mouse” in that each character of the novel, like the mouse, had their best-lain plans go astray.